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New Times / Art

The following article was posted on October 2nd, 2013, in the New Times - Volume 28, Issue 10 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from New Times [] - Volume 28, Issue 10

100 Thousand Poets for Change fills Steynberg Gallery with poetry lovers


Leslie St. John flattened the house were her deeply affecting poems on Sept. 28 in the Steynberg Gallery.

View a video from the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

You know what goes great after three margaritas? A nap, yes, that goes great. One more margarita, sure, why not? Listening to four hours of poetry? NO! That’s a terrible idea! It’s like the Bataan Death March of poetry! But here it is, Saturday, Sept. 28, and I’m walking into the Steynberg Gallery for the 100 Thousand Poets for Change event.

Look, I’m no mathematician, but there sure as hell aren’t 100,000 poets in here! Okay, technically speaking, the event is global, so maybe if you count up all the poets participating in the entire world, maybe … .

When I walk in, Leslie St. John is reading her work. Like me, Leslie is a lecturer in the Cal Poly English Department. She’s also a poet, yoga nut, and—according to her Facebook page—in love with Jesus but she has a crush on Buddha. Poets are a breed apart, I guess. Hey, there’s a guy in a dress. No, seriously. I find out later his name is Stuart Toll.

So I’m looking around and there’s Lisa Coffman, another Cal Poly lecturer and poet. There’s Kevin Patrick Sullivan, former SLO Poet Laureate. This morning, he posted in the event Facebook page this little nugget by Tikkun Magazine poetry editor Josh Weiner:

“‘Poetry is often discussed in our culture as a kind of commodity that few people are buying, but like meditation, reading poetry, listening to poetry, is less a product and more a process of coming into fuller awareness. Awareness of what? Our sense of connection to others starts within, moves without, and returns. This reciprocity between the self and the world is one of continual fluctuation.’ This process for change is what we are celebrating today,” added Sullivan.

Not only did Stuart Toll read some poetry, he also performed some music with the Allison Rice Trio.

Geesh, poets sure take themselves seriously! I better feel freaking enlightened or something after all this.

So now I’m looking for black berets and clusters of hipsters gathered by the alley smoking American Spirit cigarettes, but nope. What kind of poetry reading is this? There is a solid beard-to-clean-shaven ratio of about three to two, so at least there’s that, but when a poet finishes a poem, people clap instead of snapping their fingers and solemnly nodding their heads. Haven’t these people seen a movie?

There’s Don Wallis (poet and writer), and Timo Beckwith (musician and artist), and Malik Miko Thorne (DJ), Francesca Nemko (jazz poet), and David Settino Scott (artist) … you know who likes poetry? Other poets and artists, that’s who.

Then I see New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach and her photographer boy-toy Colin Rigley.

“I came up behind David Settino Scott just as he was dismissing my book as a book for women,” laments Ashley, “so I guilted him into buying a copy.”

New Times managing editor Ashley Schwellenbach read a passage from her debut young adult novel Scourge of the Righteous Haddock.

Hey, a book sale is a book sale, and Ashley’s Scourge of the Righteous Haddock ain’t gonna buy itself!

Then I see Dawn Fleming, who teaches Spanish at Cuesta, and she’s got her wee 7-year-old daughter Rio Fleming in tow.

“She heard the other poets and wants to sign up for the open mic,” says Dawn, explaining that Rio already won an award for one of her poems in school. Great, now there are 100,001 poets for change!

Interestingly enough, I was enjoying a poem myself earlier in the day on Facebook. It was a Grumpy Cat meme that went something like this: “Roses are red. Violets are red. Grass is red. Trees are red. Bushes are red. I set your yard on fire.” It was pretty good.

Now Dens Ray Falcon-Powell Junyor is on stage playing his haunting music, singing about “the fucked up holy ghost,” which goes something like this: “The holy ghost swims in bathing suits of faith.”

I think it’s time for another margarita.


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GOING GLOBAL: A local installment of the global event 100 Thousand Poets for Change took place on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo. An estimated 16 local poets, musicians, and writers took place. This video represents a small sample of the readings and performances.